Modular comes of age
The world of modular took another leap in its exponential rise in popularity at this year’s NAMM show. No longer dwellers in HALL E, a place that has been home to numerous unknown Chinese PA manufacturers, lesser-known Ukelele companies and a lot of acoustic treatment specialists, modular creators have been elevated to the lofty heights of HALL A, mixing it up with the likes of Moog, Dave Smith and Casio.
While such a grouping of Eurorack companies isn’t new, their new stature at the NAMM show is surely indicative of how popular Eurorack modular has become in recent years.
Another indicator of this growth is the number of non-modular manufacturers who are now dipping their toes and getting in on the party.
We scoured the show floor for all that is ‘Euro’ to bring you up-to-date on some of the cool new and crazy things we’ll be seeing in 2016.
Tom Oberheim modular
The venerable Tom Oberheim took to the show once again and this time we had the pleasure of seeing not one, but two new modules: The SEM Plus and Mini Sequencer.
Of course, Tom has been a very busy man thanks to his latest collaboration with long-time friend Dave Smith on the new OB6 synth. We chatted to Tom about his decision to get into modular in the video below.
Bristol’s finest Modal Electronics had its biggest presence at a NAMM show yet. And while it was great to see the entire ‘00’ range in all its glory, including a new 008 19-inch rack module, we were also treated to five new Eurorack modules.
First up are the 002 Voltage Controlled Filter and 002 Numerically Controlled Oscillator modules, which you can see in action below.
These modules will be joined by the GCync MIDI to Clock Bi-directional Bridge, 008 Voltage Controlled Oscillator and 008 Voltage Controlled Filter modules when they're released this Spring. Details can be found on the Modal Electronics website.
Intellijel bring the rain
Intellijel took to the show floor in its own booth this year to show off two new modules, a new 7U powered briefcase and more.
To say that the new Rainmaker is deep is a massive understatement. In a nutshell, the Rainmaker is a DSP effects unit which, at its heart, is a “16 tap stereo spectral rhythm delay and comb resonator”.
Second up is the Jellysquasher analogue compressor with three ‘tone circuits’ (Tube, Tape and ‘Xform’ (Transformer)) and a built-in sidechain circuit.
Also shown was the Boombox speaker unit, plus a new 7U Powered Briefcase... and a whole 1U Tile module utility range! For more information check out the Intellijel website.
Make Noise System Cartesian and Tempi modules
Asheville’s other famous synth export Make Noise had its brand new Tempi module and System Cartesian on display.
The System Cartesian is the perfect vehicle for the René cartesian sequencer module and features (among other units) the Wobblebug and Maths modules.
The new Tempi is a 6-channel, polyphonic time-shifting module capable of storing up to 64 different timing arrangements. Check out the Tempi and System Cartesian in the video below.
For more information on how you can get your hands on these lovely modules, go to the Make Noise website.
Dave Rossum is the man behind some classic instruments that you may have heard of; the E-MU modular; Emulator sampler; and Morpheus. So it was a delight to see him displaying three new Eurorack modules under the guise of Rossum Electro-Music.
All three modules are based on concepts he forged in the E-MU modular and Morpheus, but much improved.
For more details, go to the Rossum Electro-Music website.
If ever a company was destined to get into modular, then Strymon is it. Having created some of the finest guitar FX pedals we’ve seen, the US-based firm is now taking the obvious journey into Eurorack.
Enter Generalissimo, a four-head tape-emulating delay module and virtual spring reverb that offers a lot of CV control.
There's no official word on when we’ll see the ‘General’ released. For now, keep checking the Strymon website for more details.
Moog Music Inc.
Moog’s stand was an oasis of calm and rammed full of ‘Euro’. Bedecked with cacti, the North Carolinan company's booth lay waste to the preconception of what a stand at NAMM should look like.
A ring of Mother-32s in various formations was laid before beanbags and cushions, inviting the visitor to sit down, relax and get into some heavy sound design. We even spotted what looked like a one-off four-up rack unit.
Details on the Mother-32 can be found on the Moog Music website.
WMD’s new Aperture filter/VCA is a band-pass filter with variable width. In person it has just the right edge of aggression and a wickedly MS-20-ish chewy vowelly acid sound.
As the HP/LP which makes it up are individually resonant, it’ll also make a fine 1V/Oct dual sine generator.
The Aperture should be available in February for $350. Go to the WMD website for more info.
Noise Engineering Confundo Funkitus
Amongst other purple prototypes, Noise Engineering showed the Confundo Funkitus, which - interestingly - was developed on suggestions from Eurorack wizard Venetian Snares.
This takes two sets of four gates and blends them using ‘probability’ rather than the more common logic combiners, and with both sets of inputs controlled by a crossfader. Mutes are also provided for quick performance control.
We hope to see this funky little number arrive in the summer time. For now, head over to the Noise Engineering website for more information.
Pittsburgh introduces new Lifeforms
Pittsburgh Modular introduced their new ‘gateway’ system called Lifeforms, which combines the SV-1 synth and KB-1 controller modules into several different casing options.
The SV-1 module is a fully featured synth with dual oscillators, MIDI/Clock I/O, filter and ADSR envelope all in one. Despite the $699 price tag, the SV-1 still represents good value for money and is the perfect starter module for any aspiring ‘Euro-head’.
Available on its own, the SV-1 is also packaged with the KB-1 module and is offered in variety of case options.
Pittsburgh has developed the KB-1 controller as the perfect partner for the SV-1. The controller features a capacitive one-octave touch keyboard, complete with arpeggiator, step sequencer, four voltage memory pads and two trigger pads.
Check out the Lifeforms microsite for more information.
Waldorf KB37 and modules
German synth manufacturers Waldorf hit NAMM with yet another bomb-proof instrument in the shape of the KB37 controller and three new Eurorack modules.
The keyboard features a 37-note Fatar keybed with aftertouch, modulation and pitch wheels. The controller also includes eight CV outputs, three trigger outputs, gate outputs, clock and reset outputs for MIDI sync.
The unit is Eurorack compatible with a built-in regulated power-supply (+12V/-12V, 1.5A) and housed three new modules. Lined up alongside the NW1 Wavetable synth module was a perfect complement of Dual VCA, Modulation and Compressor modules.
Currently, there is no official word on cost and availability, but we’ll have more on this soon. In the meantime you can check out the Waldorf website for more information.